Related to: 'Ghosts of Christmas Past'

Julie Sarkissian blogs about the problems facing the protagnist of her debut novel, DEAR LUCY

Something's Wrong With Lucy - But What?

Lucy is different – that much is clear. She speaks like a child, doesn’t recognize social boundaries, flies into rages, and treasures rotten food. Her cognition is impaired, her vocabulary is very limited and she cannot read or write. But what – precisely – is wrong with her is left up to the reader. Lucy is the protagonist of my novel, DEAR LUCY, and from the first sentence of the book I ever wrote it was obvious that Lucy was cognitively different. The way Lucy describes herself is as “missing too many words.” Her mother calls her “difficult.” Readers of early drafts of the book had a few theories as to Lucy’s condition; autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome. But Lucy’s mother has kept her from going to school and Lucy has never seen a doctor. So in the fictional reality of the book there is no official diagnosis. But as the novel progressed I wondered – should I have one? I was torn. If Lucy was presenting enough symptoms to point to a real condition, was I ignoring the obvious not to fold that condition into my development of her character? Was it insensitive of me to allude to aspects of certain real, life-altering conditions but not assign a specific condition to Lucy? I worried about appropriating aspects of serious conditions without treating those conditions with proper respect and acknowledgement. And though any clinical diagnosis would probably not be explicit in the novel, I wondered if I would be ignoring an opportunity to bring attention to a real disorder when people asked me about Lucy’s condition, the way The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time did for autism. On the other hand, I had concerns that if I chose a diagnosis for Lucy, I would be ascribing to her qualities that she wouldn’t have otherwise presented. Lucy had her own will over my writing and over the novel. I didn’t want to yoke Lucy’s expression by keeping her behavior and abilities consistent with a clinical condition. Accuracy would also become a critical issue if Lucy’s condition was named. Ultimately I chose not to diagnose Lucy, though I worry the artistic freedom provided by that decision comes at the price of being judged for being too liberal with my treatment of cognitive disorders. Now that publication is a few months away, I am apprehensive of how my treatment of Lucy’s cognitive limitations will be judged. I have yet to talk to a reader who has a learning different child, or works with learning different people, and that conversation is one I will be honored, and not a bit anxious, to have.

Sceptre

Fell

Jenn Ashworth
Authors:
Jenn Ashworth
John Murray

The Hireling

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley
Sceptre

A Kind of Intimacy

Jenn Ashworth
Authors:
Jenn Ashworth

Annie is obese, lonely and hopeful. Armed with self-help books, her cat and a collection of cow-shaped milk jugs, she moves into her new home and sets about getting to know the neighbours, especially the man next door. She ignores her neighbour's inconvenient girlfriend, but it's not quite as easy for Annie to dismiss her own past. As Annie's murky history of violence, secrets and sexual mishaps catches up with her, she cannot see that she has done anything wrong. She's just doing what any good neighbour would do, after all...

John Murray

The Betrayal

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley

In The Betrayal, the sequel to The Brickfield, Richard Mardick, now an ageing novelist, is forced by circumstances to look back on the days of his boyhood and confesses to Denys Aspin, his young secretary and biographer-to-be, how Lucy's death has forever marred his life and distorted his inner peace. The consequences of this rash disclosure range from threats and blackmail to the entirely unpredictable reactions of Richard's friends.

John Murray

My Fellow Devils

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley

Margaret Pennefather is essentially a good person - too good, perhaps, for her own good. Her rash and hasty marriage to film star Colum McInnes, and his very different set of moral values, leads gradually and relentlessly to the utter destruction of their love and their marriage. Although she is only a nominal Protestant and he a very lax Roman Catholic, Margaret cannot escape the religious questionings implicit in their union. Her mental and spiritual struggles persist and gather momentum through all the disasters of her married life. Its outcome is the climax to a story that must surely rank as one of the most impressive L. P. Hartley has given us.

John Murray

The Boat

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley

Timothy Casson, a bachelor writer, is forced to return from a contented life in Venice to an English village. Taking a house by the river where he can pursue his passion for rowing, he has to do battle with the locals to overcome his isolation and feelings of incompleteness. This most complex of Hartley's novels examines the multiple layers of Casson's relationships with servants, local society and friends.

John Murray

A Perfect Woman

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley

Chartered accountant Harold Eastwood, conventionally minded, chances to meet Alec Goodrich on the train, travelling first-class with a third-class ticket. Alec is a best-selling novelist. He soon finds Harold's knowledge of income tax allowances useful and when Alec pays a visit to the accountant his wife, Isabel, who yearns for culture and literature, quickly takes up the fantasy to be his mistress. However, not she but Irma, the Austrian barmaid at the tavern, has caught Alec's wayward fancy . . .

Sceptre

The Friday Gospels

Jenn Ashworth
Authors:
Jenn Ashworth

It's Friday in the Leeke household, but this is no ordinary Friday: the Leekes are Lancastrian Mormons and tonight they will be welcoming back their son Gary from his two-year mission in Utah. His mother, Pauline, wants his homecoming to be perfect. Unfortunately, no one else seems to be following the script. In turn, the members of the family let us into their private thoughts and plans. There's teenage Jeannie, wrestling with a disastrous secret; her peculiar elder brother, Julian, who's plotting an exit according to his own warped logic; their father, Martin, dreaming of escape; and 'golden boy' Gary, who dreads his return. Then there's Pauline, who needs a doctor's help but won't ask for it. As the day progresses, a meltdown looms. Except that nothing goes according to anyone's plan, and the outcome is as unexpected as it is shocking. Laced with black humour and giving an unusual insight into the Mormon way of life, this is a superbly orchestrated and arresting tale of human folly and foibles and what counts in times of crisis.

John Murray

The Brickfield

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley

A lonely boy living on his uncle's farm in the Lincolnshire Fens, Richard Mardick's solitary existence is interrupted by a chance meeting, and idyllic love affair, with Lucy. A disused brickfield is the scene of their clandestine meetings, and it is there that Richard finds her drowned in a muddy pool. Forced by circumstances to look back on these days, Richard finds himself recounting this episode to his secretary. Its shattering significance throughout the rest of his life is put into remarkable perspective by the unusual framework with which Hartley has enclosed his story. Weaving skilfully through past events while staying awake to the present, The Brickfield is a masterly evocation of childhood and its influences on the adult mind.

Sceptre

Cold Light

Jenn Ashworth
Authors:
Jenn Ashworth

Alexander Armstrong

Alexander Armstrong is a presenter, comedian and actor and part of the comedy duo Armstrong and Miller. He presents the hit BBC show Pointless with Richard Osman. As well as regular appearances on panel shows such as Have I Got News For You, he also presents a show on Classic FM and writes a column for the Telegraph.

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.He has been featured widely in international press, appearing in Vogue, NYT, FT, Entrepreneur, Men's Health and Esquire, to name but a few. He also makes regular appearances on TV and online, having been featured on BBC, Dr Oz, Netflix and TED.Andy currently lives in Venice, California, with his wife Lucinda.

Anna Jacobs

Anna Jacobs grew up in Lancashire and emigrated to Australia, but still visits the UK regularly to see her family and do research, something she loves. She is addicted to writing and figures she'll have to live to be 120 at least to tell all the stories that keep popping up in her imagination and nagging her to write them down. She's also addicted to her own hero, to whom she's been happily married for many years.She is the bestselling author of over eighty novels and has been shortlisted for several awards, and Pride of Lancashire won the Australian Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2006.You can find out more on her website, www.annajacobs.com or on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Anna.Jacobs.Books.

Celia Haddon

Celia Haddon is a bestselling anthologist whose books have sold well over 1,000,000 copies worldwide. She was the Daily Telegraph's pet agony aunt and is a reputed lover and worshipper of cats, having lived with them and loved them since she was a child. She has compiled a number of anthologies in their honour. She is also compiler of the best-selling One Hundred Ways series and a qualified cat behaviourist.

David Mitchell

David Mitchell is the author of the novels Ghostwritten, number9dream, Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, The Bone Clocks and Slade House. He has won the John Llewellyn Rhys, Geoffrey Faber Memorial and South Bank Show Literature Prizes, and been shortlisted twice for the Booker Prize. In 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists.

Douglas Lindsay

Douglas Lindsay was born in Scotland in 1964, at 2:38 am. Thirty-five years of little note ensued, before the world heralded the publication of his first book, The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson, which was adapted was adapted for the screen starring Robert Carlyle, Ray Winstone and Emma Thompson. As he was leaving the house to undertake a public engagement for the first time, his wife kissed him on the cheek and said, 'Whatever you do, don't be yourself...' Sadly, Lindsay continues to ignore her advice to this day.Lindsay worked at the Ministry of Defence for over ten years and is married to a diplomat. He has lived in Dakar, Belgrade, Warsaw and Tallinn, an experience that inspired Song of the Dead. He now lives and writes full time in Somerset with his wife and their two children. Find him on Twitter at @DTSLindsay.

Ella Mills (Woodward)

Ella Woodward is the author of must-read food blog www.deliciouslyella.com. She has created a hugely successful app to accompany the blog, opened her own deli in central London and launched her own line of energy balls. Ella's debut book Deliciously Ella was a number 1 bestseller when it was first published in January 2015, becoming the fastest selling debut cookery book since records began. It was also named as Amazon's biggest selling book of 2015. She was awarded a prestigious Observer Food Monthly award for Best Food Blog 2015. Her follow-up book, Deliciously Ella Every Day has been another hit bestseller. Ella discovered her passion for plant-based recipes after being diagnosed with a rare illness called Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS). She couldn't walk down the street, slept for 16 hours a day and was in chronic pain most of the time. Conventional medicine failed to help her, so she decided to completely overhaul her diet and overnight the self-confessed 'sugar-monster' gave up meat, gluten, dairy, sugar and all processed food. The results were incredible. Though initially far from confident in the kitchen, Ella started blogging about her new approach to food and posting recipes, and quickly amassed a huge online following.

Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger, columnist and author. His debut novel A MAN CALLED OVE was a number 1 bestseller across Scandinavia, has sold over one million copies worldwide, was a Richard & Judy summer read in the UK and an instant New York Times paperback bestseller, and has been made into an acclaimed film. Fredrik's subsequent novels, MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES and BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE, also went straight to number 1 in Sweden on publication.

Funmi Fetto

Funmi Fetto, a former beauty director of British Vogue and currently Contributing Beauty Editor and Columnist at the title, has over 15 years experience as a fashion and beauty journalist. She has worked and written for numerous publications including the Sunday Times, Harpers Bazaar, the Telegraph, Guardian, Observer, and Elle. She also consults for and collaborates with numerous global beauty brands.

Gervase Phinn

Dr Gervase Phinn is a teacher, freelance lecturer, author, poet, educational consultant and visiting professor of education. For fourteen years he taught in a range of schools, then acted as General Adviser for Language Development in Rotherham before moving on to North Yorkshire, where he spent ten years as a school inspector - time that has provided much source material for his books. He has four grown up children and four grandchildren and lives near Doncaster. Visit Gervase's website, www.gervase-phinn.com.